Menzies Research Institute director named HHMI International Research Scholar


Menzies Research Institute Director, Professor Simon Foote, has been awarded US$350,000 over five years as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) International Research Scholar to fight the debilitating parasitic disease, malaria.

Professor Foote says it is a great honour to be awarded this international scholarship, with the award providing the Institute the opportunity to further expand its medical research in Tasmania.

"This funding will allow the Menzies Research Institute to expand its genetic research program to include malaria, which is the third most lethal disease globally.

"Malaria infects 250 million people and kills more than two million worldwide each year. With the parasite's increasing resistance to anti-malarial drugs, and mosquito resistance to insecticides, there is a worldwide need for innovative research into malaria," Professor Foote said.

The HHMI International Research Scholar funding will assist Professor Foote to better understand how a person's immune system fights malaria. He will do this by infecting laboratory mice that have rare genetic mutations with malaria, and studying the mutations that allow the animals to survive infection.

"This research will contribute to the global understanding of host response to malaria and lead to the development of new, more effective anti-malarial therapies," he said.

Professor Foote has extensive experience in infectious diseases and parasitology through his work at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, where he has a continuing appointment for fifty percent of his time as Joint-Head of the Genetics and Bioinformatics Division until the end of 2005.

The HHMI has awarded US$17.5 million to 42 outstanding scientists in 20 countries to tackle the mysteries of infectious and parasitic disease.

Eight of these scientists are based in Australia, which is more than in any other country. What they learn could help identify potential new drug targets and develop vaccines. Nearly 500 scientists from 62 countries applied for the five-year awards.

The HHMI is a nonprofit medical research organisation, based in the United States of America, dedicated to biomedical research and education. Through their international program, HHMI seeks to support scientists of the highest quality in their home countries. They also bring these international scholars together with each other and with other scientists in the HHMI community annually to create an international network of scientific excellence.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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